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The Weight of the Monster Frankenstein

Posted Oct 21 2008 12:12am

Quick plastic bag update--my neighborhood Publix is selling these canvas bags for 99 cents (as Kroger has been doing for awhile), and a sign in the store encourages use by saying that each canvas tote takes the place of four plastic bags (there is no sign at Kroger). Whole Foods has finally dropped the price of their bags down to 99 cents as well, and they subtract a dime for each canvas bag used from your grocery bill. Clerks continue to ask, "Paper or plastic?", I continue to say, "Neither, I have my own bags," baggers seem to be getting less annoyed about the canvas bags, yet I continue to hardly ever see anyone else using them as well.

It is rare that I bring a plastic bag into my home now, which means I run into trouble finding a bag to use for cleaning out the hamster cages and the fireplace and all those other little reasons a leftover plastic bag comes in handy (like when Richard needs more food scraps for his worms!). I'm using my little wheelbarrow when I can, and working through the leftover plastic Target bags that are still stuffed in my closet.

I use cloth napkins and thermoses and little reusable containers in the lunchboxes as much as I can, but I still can't seem to get away from all those little baggies. Plus, every product imaginable seems to come in some sort of plastic packaging or be made of plastic.

And herein lies the problem. Turns out, according to this truly shocking and straight-shooting article, that almost all the plastic ever manufactured is still around, much of it floating in toxic soup in the oceans (one such ever-growing collection of it is in the Pacific Ocean and is larger than the size of two states of Texas!), and that we and all other living creatures are constantly ingesting plastic toxins that are increasingly proven to disrupt gene activity. Think recycling is the answer? Think again. According to this article:

With plastic, recycling is more complicated. Unfortunately, that promising-looking triangle of arrows that appears on products doesn’t always signify endless reuse; it merely identifies which type of plastic the item is made from. And of the seven different plastics in common use, only two of them—PET (labeled with #1 inside the triangle and used in soda bottles) and HDPE (labeled with #2 inside the triangle and used in milk jugs)—have much of an aftermarket. So no matter how virtuously you toss your chip bags and shampoo bottles into your blue bin, few of them will escape the landfill—only 3 to 5 percent of plastics are recycled in any way.

True cradle-to-cradle product design that uses biodegradable materials and repurposes materials innovatively, plus a reduction in packaging and product use by consumers, seem to be promising trends for the future, starting to be embraced by a growing list of companies today (like that Preserve toothbrush company).

Each of us apparently tosses 180 pounds of plastic a year. That's as if every one of us tossed the weight of a grown man in the ocean each year, the weight of the monster Frankenstein, which, in reality, is what plastic has become. And yes, I think many of us agree that it's time we stop "throwing our weight around." But how? Notice how many times you touch plastic today. Your shampoo bottle. Your coffee maker. Your car interior. Your eco-lip balm container. Not as easy as it sounds to avoid the stuff.

Like the raw milk issue, and school lunches, and toxic lawns, I'm not finished with this topic yet.
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